January 4, 2013

A great movie is often released at the perfect time to reflect what’s happening in society, but more importantly, it has an extra something that gives it a long-term appeal to keep fans watching it or remembering it for many years. It creates loyalists. It gets added to a movie lover’s “best of all time” list.

In 2013, we saw an embarrassment of such riches. Below are 10 movies that will become classics in their respective genres, albeit for different reasons, to a wide variety and diversity of fans. (Click on the links to see interviews.) So says Cinema Siren, the best of 2013:

10. The Spectacular Now
A lovely and unexpected romance that is equal parts sweet and bittersweet, starring rising star and highly lauded actress Shailene Woodley (of the upcoming Divergent films) and Miles Teller, as well as featuring indie “It” girls Brie Larson and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It approaches teenage alcoholism and heartbreak with a side of charm and without the “after school special” vibe.


9. The Dallas Buyers Club
Speaking of spectacular, Matthew McConaughey’s great year is highlighted by this portrayal of HIV-positive Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, and Jared Leto is running away with all sorts of awards for his complete embodiment of transsexual AIDS patient Rayon. Both actors not only lost a dangerous amount of weight, but lost themselves utterly in their roles. The Dallas Buyers Club captures an important time in the United States, and also conveys the story with an indie aesthetic that creates a lovely little piece of cohesive film artistry.


8. Warm Bodies
A movie that holds up to repeated viewing, Warm Bodies is a surprise that may not be on everyone’s top 10 list, but should be. Director and screenwriter Jonathan Levine brings us a multilayered romance-horror hybrid aptly dubbed a “Zomcom,” in a film about a zombie that falls for a live girl starring Nicholas Hoult (Beast in X-Men) who makes his every shuffle and growl endearing.


7. Frozen
Disney’s delightful charmer overcame awful marketing to become a huge hit for good reason. Innovation in seaming together 3D animation techniques and traditional 2D aesthetics lead to a gorgeous and captivating movie, aided by the great songs and characterizations, and enhanced by portrayals by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. A great outing for sisters in particular and siblings in general at the cineplex, it will become a favorite due to its timeless message and catchy tunes.


6. Her
Spike Jonze takes on loneliness, conspicuous consumption and the meaning of love in this gorgeous little film about an unlikely affair between a man and his computer. He also asks the question “What is spirit?” and who better to guide the audience through these big questions than Joaquin Phoenix? Production design, great portrayals by the actors and a fascinating script will make this movie a long-term fan favorite.


5. Trance

Moviegoers who find mixed chronologies or uncertain realities disconcerting should run in the other direction from this thoroughly inventive, gorgeously filmed and expertly acted film, directed by Danny Boyle. The curse of “specialty release” (ie. films with limited promotional marketing dollars) dropped it out of theaters and into undeserved obscurity. James McAvoy (soon to blow minds with his British Indie Film Award-winning performance in the 2014 American release of Filth) Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel are messing with each other’s minds and the audience’s minds in a heist gone wrong movie where reality and loyalties keep shifting until you think your brain will explode. The score is reason enough to see it, but stay for all the other reasons, and to see one of Boyle’s best.


4. American Hustle
David O. Russell does it again, but does it ’70s style in the biggest way, with actors who carry the audience compellingly through con after con, making them feel they are in the film. The costumes, music, scripting, set decor and production design all conspire to seduce, just as the characters do, and moviegoers will walk away with jaws gaping at the acting prowess and cleavage on display. Not only will this movie win awards this year, it will remain watchable and quotable for years to come.


3. Broken Circle Breakdown
The first of three that could easily tie as this year’s best, this Dutch language Felix Van Groeningen-directed indie is a romance that heartbreakingly portrays loss in the most believable and truthful way, while being propelled forward by a beautiful bluegrass soundtrack. Not for the easily depressed, the acting by stars Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh deserved international recognition, and the film deserved to be seen around the world.


2. Gravity
This groundbreaking, highly entertaining, innovative love letter to space travel seven years in the making by director Alfonso Cuaron is getting pushed out of the spotlight now but will come to be seen as essential viewing for film historians. This is not merely advancement in filmmaking, it is an explosion of expansion. It is also a great film. Extremely tense, exciting and well acted by star Sandra Bullock, it lives up to all hyperbole and hype. Those who have seen it and place it back in their minds with The Avengers bunch, watch it again. It isn’t just great sci-fi, it is a perfectly crafted film with a strong story arc, great characters, and unmatched production design.


1. 12 Years A Slave
Director Steve McQueen’s unflinching portrayal of slavery starring the incomparable Chiwetel Ejiofor as real-life abductee Solomon Northrup will stand for years to come as one of the best representative films showing one of the worst times in American history. The film has a cast with more awards-quality portrayals ever usually found in one film. They work together to tell an important story in the most fearless and believable way making 12 Years A Slave even better than anyone would have expected. 12 Years A Slave is a heart-wrenching masterwork, and must be seen.


Honorable Mention: The World’s End starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan. A delightful making-terms-with-middle-age buddy comedy, meets apocalyptic disaster, meets ’50s paranoia science fiction flick that will be sure to stay in the hearts of movie-lovers everywhere, especially if you loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

*To see actors from 12 Years a Slave, Her, and Dallas Buyers Club in Cinema Siren’s Best Actor Oscar Nomination predictions, go here to my YouTube channel.